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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

[CA] The wife of Susanville Police Officer Rob McElrath and another are jailed for his murder

Susanville Police Officer Robert "Rob" McElrath

[See or leave updates in the comment section below.]

The suspects are McElrath's wife, Joanna McElrath, and her boyfriend, Robin Glen James... charged with first degree murder in connection with his death... Susanville Police Chief Jeffrey D. Atkinson said in a statement that McElrath began working for his department in 2003... But despite the resolution, the Sheriff said the investigation was draining for the whole law enforcement community. McElrath worked for the [Lassen County] Sheriff's Department before he was hired by the Susanville Police Department. Both the Police Chief and the Sheriff spoke about how much McElrath will be missed...

Memorial services will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 15, 2011 at the Assembly of God Church with food and fellowship after.

McElrath Shooting Press Conference January 7th, 2011

[Excerpts] In a press conference held Friday [1/7/2011] afternoon Lassen County Sheriff-Coroner Dean Growdon gave preliminary details of the investigation into the Sunday shooting death of 37 year old Robert McElrath... Sheriff Growdon was joined at the press conference by Susanville Police Chief Jeff Atkinson; Captain Tom Downing from the Susanville Police Department; Sgt. Matt McFarland, case manager for the Sheriff’s Department and Lassen County Undersheriff John Mineau... [Full article here]

[Excerpts] The Susanville Police Department has announced the route for Saturday morning’s procession leading to McElrath's service... Services at the Assembly of God Church Parking at the church will be directed by parking attendants. [Full article here]



TWO FACE MURDER & CONSPIRACY CHARGES IN POLICE OFFICER DEATH: Two people will remain in jail over the weekend charged with conspiracy and murder, in connection with the death of Susanville police officer Robert McElrath.

kendra kostelecky
Posted: 8:26 PM Jan 7, 2011
[Excerpts] Two people will remain in jail over the weekend charged with conspiracy and murder, in connection with the death of Susanville police officer Robert McElrath... Law enforcement officers from Lassen County Sheriff's Office and Susanville Police were somber as they spoke of the victim, who had been a friend and coworker. All wore black bands across their badges, in memory of McElrath and his untimely death. "We're a small department," said Jeffrey D. Atkinson "Rob was an important part of what we do and we will miss him greatly." Several agencies, including the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office, FBI, California Department of Justice and others, teamed up to help Lassen County Sheriff's Officers with this investigation... Thursday, Sheriff's Officers arrested the victim's estranged wife, Joanna McElrath and her boyfriend Robin Glen James. Both are charged with Murder and Conspiracy. They are being held without bail... [Full article here]


January 7, 2011
[Excerpts] On January 2, 2011 at approximately 10;59 a.m. The Lassen County Sheriff-Coroner's Office received a report of a deceased person in the area of Devil's Corral, near the railroad trestle... On Monday, autopsy findings revealed that McElrath's death was the result of a gunshot wound... Through investigation leads we determined McElrath's wife, Joanna and her boyfriend Robin James were responsible. Both of them were arrested yesterday and booked into the Lassen County Jail for conspiracy and murder... The Sheriff's Office received tremendous investigative aid from: The Siskiyou County Sheriff's Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the California Department of Justice. [Full article here]


ktvn.com, Channel 2 News
Arianna Bennett
Jan 07, 2011 11:59 PM PST
Updated: Jan 08, 2011 12:11 PM PST
[Excerpts] Police in California's Lassen County have two suspects in custody for the alleged murder of Susanville police officer Rob McElrath. But even with this development in the case, they say the process of the ongoing investigation has been difficult for the whole law enforcement community... The suspects are McElrath's wife, Joanna McElrath, and her boyfriend, Robin Glen James. Both are being held without bail... "I am very proud of the how my organization and our fellow law enforcement agencies responded to this tragedy," Lassen County Sheriff Dean Growdon said... But despite the resolution, the Sheriff said the investigation was draining for the whole law enforcement community. McElrath worked for the Sheriff's Department before he was hired by the Susanville Police Department. Both the Police Chief and the Sheriff spoke about how much McElrath will be missed. "Even though Rob is an employee of mine," Atkinson said, "everyone on scene treated him like he was one of theirs, and we will...we will be alright"... [Full article here]


News 4
Victoria Campbell vcampbell@mynews4.com
Monday January 10, 2011 7:21pm PST
[Excerpts] The Lassen County District Attorney's office has filed court documents that purportedly detail the final moments of Susanville Police Officer Robert James McElrath's before he was murdered last weekend. McElrath's wife, Joanna, and her boyfriend Robin James, are charged with first degree murder in connection with his death. The court documents say Robin James supplied Joanna McElrath with prescription narcotic medication... Later, documents say, she gave him more of the medication... When Officer McElrath was "essentially incoherent", according to the documents, Joanna McElrath and Robin James put him in his own car, drove him to Devil's Corral outside Susanville, took him onto the old vehicular bridge, and shot him... Leaving him for dead, according to the documents, the couple returned later to dump his body off the bridge and onto the riverbank below... [Full article here]

Complaint details officer's death
Lassen County Times
Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2011
On Monday, Jan. 10, Lassen County District Attorney Bob Burns filed two complaints of premeditated murder and conspiracy against Robin James Glen and Joanna (Beckett) McElrath in the Lassen County Superior Court. The complaint also outlines how the alleged murder of Susanville Police Officer Robert McElrath took place... During a Monday, Jan. 10 arraignment, McElrath and James pleaded not guilty to charges of premeditated murder and conspiracy and special allegations that the murder was committed for the purpose of financial gain, lying in wait and that James allegedly used the handgun during the felony and that action resulted in McElrath’s death... [Full article here]

Obituaries for Jan. 11, 2011
Lassen County Times
[Excerpts] Robert James McElrath, lifetime resident of Susanville, Calif., passed away Sunday, Jan. 2, 2011. He was born in Susanville on Apr. 26, 1973. He lived in Susanville all of his life with the exception of his U.S. Marine Military Service from 1992-1996. Robert was a City of Susanville Police officer, named "Officer of the Year" in 2008, and was a member of the Police Officer Association. He was the soccer coach for his childrens’ teams and for his community. He deeply loved his family and his community... He is survived by his mother... his father... He is also survived by his wife Joanna McElrath; children... sister... brothers... grandparents... and numerous aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews. Memorial services will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 15, 2011 at the Assembly of God Church with food and fellowship after. Contact the church for details. Memorial donation trust accounts are set up at Golden1. [Full article here]

MEMORIAL TONIGHT IN SUSANVILLE FOR SLAIN POLICE OFFICER: Thousands of mourners are expected to gather tonight in Susanville, Calif., to remember a police officer murdered more than one week ago.
Jan. 11, 2011
[Excerpts] ...At 7 p.m. tonight, a candlelight vigil is being held at Banner Lassen Medical Center, 1800 Spring Ridge Drive, to remember McElrath, said organizer Debra Vanderbyl, who was McElrath’s friend. The event will start around the facility’s flag poles, as McElrath had served as a U.S. Marine, she said. Participants are asked to bring their own candles. Saturday, the officer’s funeral services are being held at Susanville Assembly of God, 473-465 Richmond Road North, authorities said. Susanville Police Chief Jeffrey D. Atkinson said in a statement that McElrath began working for his department in 2003 as a reserve officer. He previously was a deputy sheriff for the Lassen County Sheriff’s Office, which is investigating his murder. "Rob was an important part of our police department family and we will miss him greatly," Atkinson said. "Rob was always quick with a smile and his positive attitude made our department a better place."... McElrath was a father to two children and had adopted two more children... "He was an amazing officer, an amazing man and a wonderful father...We are all devastated. It’s hard to believe." [Full article here]


R.I.P Robert McElrath

More than 90 patrol cars led the way to Officer Robert McElrath's memorial service early Saturday afternoon.

Lauren Garber
Jan 15, 2011
[Excerpts] Officer Rob McElrath's friends and family are still in shock over how the 37 year-old died...Still, more than 700 mourners put all of that aside Saturday to remember the life of Officer McElrath... More than 70 official vehicles from California and Nevada led the way to Officer McElrath's Memorial Service in Susanville where crowds coming to pay their respects spilled out of the church... His adopted daughter said she'll miss being able to watch movies with her dad on the couch.... McElrath leaves behind four children, two biological and two adopted. The two adopted children are his wife's children from a previous marriage.... [Full article here]

Siskiyou Daily News
By Jamie Gentner
Posted Jan 14, 2011
[Excerpts] Yreka, Calif. — Calls for assistance from outside agencies were made, as an autopsy revealed McElrath’s death was as a result of a gunshot wound and the case was considered a homicide. But according to Susanville Police Chief Jeff Atkinson, the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office didn’t need to be called. “I know some of the Siskiyou guys, and my understanding is that when they heard, they called and offered any assistance we needed”... A Lassen County Sheriff-Coroner’s Office press release says they received “tremendous investigative aid” from the SCSO. They also received support from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, California Department of Justice, at least seven other agencies as well as volunteers and law enforcement chaplains, the release said. “Everyone involved in the investigation treated my guy like he was one of their own,. I can’t even put into words how important that is to us and how good it makes us feel,” Atkinson said. “I’ll never be able to thank the Siskiyou unit enough for the work they did. We’re forever grateful for their work on behalf of Robert”... [Full article here]

The Sacramento Bee
By Hudson Sangree
and Jane Braxton Little
Saturday, Jan. 15, 2011
Last Modified: Sunday, Jan. 16, 2011
[Excerpts] The New Year's Day killing of police Officer Robert McElrath casts a pall over this prison and ranching community on the Sierra Nevada's eastern flank. McElrath's body was found Jan. 2 in a remote, snowy area about seven miles outside town... Susanville Police Chief Jeff Atkinson said the killing "is so far out of the norm for us"... Lassen County Sheriff Dean Growdon said the suspects may have been trying to make it look like a suicide. Other authorities said financial gain could have been a motive... Joanna McElrath and James were arrested four days later... Lassen County court records show that James has two convictions for spousal abuse. In 2002, he was charged with a felony... In December 2007, James' wife told police he had destroyed their Christmas tree and torn out chunks of her hair... In interviews with The Bee, fellow officers, residents, family and friends described the officer as kindhearted, upbeat and always smiling. Susanville Police Officer Alan Inman, McElrath's shift partner, said he had a calming influence on people and even those he arrested found it hard to dislike him. Last winter, Inman watched as his partner took off his gunbelt, tied a rope around his waist and waded into the partially frozen Susan River to save a drowning dog... McElrath and his wife, a former Miss Lassen County, had two younger children together and McElrath adopted his wife's two daughters from a prior marriage. McElrath had recently reconciled with his estranged wife for the sake of their children, relatives said... [Full article here]
[police officer involved domestic violence oidv intimate partner violence (IPV) abuse law enforcement public safety fatality fatalities lethal murder california state female perp perpetrator jail]


  1. I have known Rob for the last 14 years he was my best friend, he was a great cop and great friend Rob you will be missed by everyone.
    Your Friend
    David L.
    RIP.. Brother

  2. RIP Dear Friend. You will be missed by many. Until we meet again. Semper Fi.

  3. When we met in Susanville in December 2010 and I wished you a happy and healthy New Year 2011, I had never envisioned this would be your fate Rob. Your loss, each day, brings more pain and sorrow as the story unfolds. You were bigger than life and more than a friend. You were family to many. Your loss is more to bear than anyone could imagine. You deserved so much more. Rest in Peace. Semper Fi.
    Brian Cook, Milford CA


  5. I thank you for puting this info up & the video clips. I knew Rob in highschool & will miss him greatly! I pray that those who took him from us are punnished to the fullest extent of the law!! I LOVE YOU ROB - Love,B

  6. You were my first friend when my family moved to Susanville in 2008. I thank you for your kindness, and your friendship. You will be missed beyond words can say. Until we meet again in Heaven where you surely are. RIP Rob you will never be forgotten.

  7. Rob, I had only known you a year. And in that time you were a great support and friend to me. I will never forget the last time I spent with you. It was a time I needed someone most and you came right when I called. You truely were the most selfless, understanding person that I have ever had the honor of knowing. I miss your smile and happiness and comfort you gave to everyone everytime you were around. All my love.

  8. To the person who tried to interject some negativity into the comments about this officer, you are in the wrong place.

    1. Thank you, it is greatly appreciated...Rob's sister

  9. My Friend, We met in the academy and had a great bond. You were always the calm voice in the storm and always seemed to have the right words at the worst time. We had not kept in touch nearly as much as we should have, but in hearing of your loss it was like we never lost touch. You were truely the example of an officer we should all strive to be. God Speed brother. Semper Fi and tell Chesty you deserve a shot if that Wiskey. Sgt. Rifredi, Davis PD

  10. I knew Rob from taking Criminal Justice classes with him at Lassen College. I left California 11 years ago but still read the local newspaper. I just read about this and am saddened to hear such a tragedy had happened to Rob. He truly was a wonderful person. Always saying Hi and asking how I've been whenever I'd visit the area. My heartfelt sympathies to his family and friends. RIP Rob. I miss you too!

  11. Rob was my brother in law for a short time.I loved him and respected him R.I.P my brother

  12. I was Robs brother in law for a short time.He was alway so good to me.I'am stunned over his loss.

  13. Joanna was my cell mate for a couple days...I wish nothing but justice for this family! Those kids lost both parents that day and so much more. I just know he is watching over them from above. Sounds like a great guy...sorry for your loss

  14. Thank you all for your lovely comments...Rob's sister

  15. Does anyone know if there have been any updates in this case? It has been two years now and I am wondering what kind of headway has been made.

  16. Suspects in Susanville police officer's death to stand trial
    The Sacramento Bee
    Jane Braxton Little, Bee Correspondent
    August 1, 2011

    SUSANVILLE - Two suspects in the Jan. 1 murder of Robert McElrath, a Susanville police officer, are scheduled to appear for arraignment Aug. 15 on charges that they shot him in the face with his own duty weapon, then shoved his body off an out-of-service highway bridge.

    The officer's estranged wife, Joanna McElrath, 36 and Robin Glen James, 46, both of Susanville, were held to answer to felony charges that include murder, conspiracy to commit murder and special allegations that the murder involved lying in wait and the use of a firearm.

    Lassen County District Attorney Robert M. Burns charged that James and McElrath, the victim's estranged wife, used a prescription narcotic to drug Robert McElrath before using his own car to drive him to the bridge near Susanville, where they killed him.

    Lassen County Superior Court Judge Michelle Verderosa determined that a week-long preliminary hearing produced enough evidence to try both defendants. Joanna McElrath and James have been in custody without bail since their January arrests.


  17. District Attorney Burns Announces Death Penalty Decision
    Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

    There was an important development Tuesday in the murder trial of Robin Glen James and Joanna McElrath, the pair who face felony charges for the brutal January killing of 37 year-old Susanville police officer Robert McElrath.

    According to a press release from Lassen County District Attorney Bob Burns, his office has decided to not seek the death penalty in the case. Citing the practical difficulties involved with successfully imposing a death sentence on a woman in the State of California, and the family’s need for closure, Burns explained that although the decision was his to make he did so with the input of McElrath’s family and that of local law enforcement agencies. Burns continued to explain that Joanna McElrath and Robin James will still be facing life in prison without any possibility of parole.

    Following the District Attorney’s announcement Tuesday Lassen County Sheriff Dean Growdon issued a statement supporting the decision and explained his reasoning. Growdon wrote, “The murder of Robert McElrath has caused a great deal of heartache for his family, our community and our local law enforcement professionals. The law enforcement personnel who worked the case did an exemplary job, and their efforts will never be forgotten.”

    Growdon talked a little about the process of bringing the trial to court and gaining a conviction, “As this case moves through the justice system there are many critical decisions that will have to be made. One such decision was the decision by the District Attorney to not seek the death penalty in either case.”

    Sheriff Growdon said he supports Burns’ decision because, “The most important people associated with this case at this time are the family of Robert McElrath. The family has decided that they do not wish to pursue the death penalty. I have a great deal of respect for their wishes and therefore support them.”

    “Each portion of the criminal justice system has an area of responsibility within that system. The District Attorney has the final authority in deciding which crimes get charged within Lassen County. I respect his position in our criminal justice system and as such I respect his position related to this case just as I would expect him to respect the role of my office.”

    Growdon said he had been asked several times after the decision about his thoughts on the death penalty by people assuming that he doesn’t support pursuing the death penalty due to the complications it poses and the lengthy appeals process associated with it. The Sheriff explains, “I do support the death penalty and feel that it should be pursued regardless of the legal complications when warranted by the facts of the case.”

    “The men and women of my office will continue in their efforts to see that justice is served in this case.”

    Both defendants have been in custody without bail since their January 6th arrests.


  18. Change of Venue Hearing Continued in McElrath Murder Trial -
    A change of venue motion was continued Tuesday for Joanna Lynne McElrath and Robin Glen James, the two parties accused in the death of Susanville Police Officer Robert McElrath. The defendants are being held in custody without bail on charges of premeditated murder and conspiracy in the January 2011 death of Joannas estranged husband Robert McElrath.
    Visiting Judge John T. Ball presided over the matter granting a continuance for a change of venue hearing to Wednesday, December 12th at 11am. Both defendants were present at the hearing. Judge Ball stated that the key witness for the defense team has yet to complete the required work for the defense to make the change of venue motion as his basis for the decision. Lassen County District Attorney Bob Burns made his plea that the case be expedited, but Judge Ball expressed that there is really nothing anyone can do to expedite the case any further.

  19. 2012_0829 Lassen District Attorney Office for expert witness Jim Cook


  20. just was wondering if there has been any progress on the case.

    1. It would be helpful and appreciated if you'd run some Google searches and let us know.

  21. AnonymousJune 08, 2014

    here and up date I found on lassennews.com Friday, May 23 — After almost 3-1/2 years, some resolution has come in the murder case of an off-duty Susanville police officer.

    On Friday, May 23, Joanna Lynne McElrath, 39, was sentenced to 25-years-to-life in state prison for the premeditated and deliberate first-degree murder of her husband, Robert McElrath. She will also pay restitution including $8,912.89 to the victim’s family.

    Visiting Judge John T. Ball also granted McElrath the 1,233 days she has spent in custody since her January 2011 arrest.

    Robert McElrath’s family and friends filled one side of the courtroom, while members of Joanna McElrath’s family sat on the other.

    Those in attendance heard emotional victims’ impact statements from Robert McElrath’s mother, step-mother and sister who shared how his death has affected them and what he meant to their family and community.

    Robert McElrath was described as someone who was loyal, had integrity and loved his family and provided for them.

    His sister requested the defendant receive life without the possibility of parole.

    Samantha McElrath, Joanna McElrath's daughter who Robert McElrath had adopted, and Tish Beckett, the defendant’s mother also spoke.

    Samantha McElrath said her mother should not receive the three years credit as part of her sentence.

    Joanna McElrath pleaded guilty on Feb. 28 to premeditated and deliberate first-degree murder. She also waived her right to appeal and gave the judge sole discretion to determine if she would receive custody for time already served.

    Court proceedings for Robin Glen James, another defendant in the case, continue to move forward and a court hearing has been scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Friday, July 11.

    See the Tuesday, June 3 edition of the Lassen County Times for the rest of the story


  22. here is anther update
    Thursday, Dec. 11 — A co-defendant has pleaded guilty to the murder of an off-duty police officer and the almost four-year case will be coming to a conclusion.
    Robin Glen James appeared in Lassen Superior Court Thursday, Dec. 11 where he pleaded guilty to a felony charge of murder, as well as a special allegation the crime was premeditated.
    He waived his right to appeal and now faces a 25-to-year-life sentence in state prison.
    James and Joanna McElrath, the second defendant, were arrested on Jan. 6, 2011, after an investigation into the death of Robert McElrath, Joanna McElrath’s estranged husband.
    See the Tuesday, Dec. 16 edition of the Lassen County Times for the complete story.



Please post updates or email them to behindthebluewall@gmail.com. No cop-hating or victim-hating comments allowed. Word verification had to be added due to spam attacks on this blog.